Beth-shan (bĕth-shănˈ) [key] or Beth-shean bĕth-shēˈən, ancient town, at the meeting of the Vale of Jezreel with the Jordan valley. It was the most strategic point of E ancient Palestine, with the crossing of four roads. References to it in the Bible are numerous. Excavations (1921–33) revealed settlements of the 4th millennium B.C. From the 15th cent. B.C. to the 12th cent. B.C. it was a fortified Egyptian outpost, and later it was a Philistine town until it fell to the Israelites at the time of David. In Hellenistic times it was called Scythopolis, apparently because it fell to the Scyths in the 7th cent. B.C. It was a principal city of the Decapolis and a major trade center. The Arabs who took it (638 B.C.) named it Beisan. The present-day Israeli settlement called Bet Shean is nearby.

See A. Rowe, A Topography and History of Beth-shan (1930); G. M. FitzGerald, Beth-shan (1931).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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